What is Google’s Core Algorithm?

There was another flurry of activity in the SEO community this week as online businesses witnessed a dramatic twist in their organic search results. Yes, seems as though Google has launched another major update to its core algorithm.

As usual, the search engine giant rolled out another snow ball and as it rolled down the hill it took out some passersby. There are always winners and losers whenever Google update their algorithms.

But given Google is so secretive about how its core algorithm affects search results, recovering a drop in organic rankings is not always straightforward. The best way to avoid being penalised is to understand how the core algorithm works and work with it.

hummingbird4Hummingbird

The bulk of the core algorithm is known as Hummingbird and uses semantic text that understands the concept of content on a page. When Google launched Hummingbird in September 2013, it was the first sign the search engine was moving away from relying on keywords and steering more towards user-intent. Earlier this year, Google announced they added Penguin and Panda to the core algorithm to support Hummingbird.penguin5

Penguin

Penguin upset a lot of web owners when it was first launched, but they only have themselves to blame for trying to manipulate search results with ill-gotten links. Penguin digs our spammy links pointing to your website from third party sites and also broken links or links to unrelated topics. When embedding internal links, do not use exact-match anchor text. Use categories, related topics and hierarchies for anchors.

pandaPanda

The Panda algorithm relates entirely to content, or more specifically high-quality content. If you are publishing content that is well-written and in-depth, you will not be harmed by Panda, but promoted up in the ranks. Pages with thin content, badly written content or content visitors are not engaging with, do not get ranked.

Panda also supports Hummingbird in trying to match user-intent with keyword relevancy. The core algorithm takes keyword searches and looks for text that matches search terms exactly. If there are no exact keyword matches, Hummingbird determines the context of a page and throws up results it thinks should satisfy user intent. To improve that function, the final piece to the algo-puzzle is RankBrain.

google-rankbrainRankBrain

RankBrain is a machine learning piece of the algorithm which considers search terms that have never been used before and tries to determine what the user actually wants. When Hummingbird and Panda can’t meet user-expectation it is hoped that RankBrain will.

But RankBrain is also designed to understand natural speech patterns of humans in order to second-guess what users actually want. Once the algorithm has matured there is a strong possibility the core algorithm will be able to cope with voice search. We are not far off search through speech being the norm.

Understanding how search engine algorithms work gives you a better insight into how your website will perform better in search engines. But as you can see from the core algorithm, visibility in search engines predominantly resolves around high-quality content.

Will Your Business Benefit From a One-Page Website?

The evolution of digital technology changes the landscape of the internet at a fast pace. And we are on the brink of witnessing yet another paradigm shift – to one page scrolling websites.

You may be thinking that a one-page website is nonsense and it won’t work for your website. For many online business owners such as eCommerce retailers, that is the case. But there are many other types of businesses that will benefit from user-friendly scrolling websites rather than multi-page sites that are more complicated to use and find information.

The_Whispered_World_parallax_scrolling_sample_2

Parallax Website Core Sample

The catalyst for “pageless” websites is mobile. The switch to responsive websites, parallax scrolling designs and one-click actions has improved user-experience by making it easier to perform actions.

So what is preventing web designers from using the intuitive development of mobile web applications for a desktop website?

Absolutely nothing.

The technology and software is already there. All it needs is the creativity and craftsmanship of web designers to refashion conventional web designs.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for online stores is load times. Consumers expect almost instantaneous access and waiting time is barely tolerated. HTML5, javascript and CSS3 has helped make websites quicker, but many are still effected by page lag. One page websites resolve this issue.

Benefits of One-page websites

51651-bigThe biggest advantage of a one-page websites is the ability to increase lead generation and conversions. Because of the layout, you don’t have much room for pointless explanation. You therefore have to tell a story that piques the interest of the reader.

Storytelling is pretty big in the digital world right now. It has been a mainstay of effective marketing and the best way for humans to communicate memorable information for thousands of years. The short story is, build a big picture.

Effective online marketing has to elicit emotion and there is no better way than telling a compelling story about your product and services. Create content that compels the reader to take action. And one-page websites provide you with the perfect platform.

They also have seamless scrolling action so are easy to navigate and digest. All in all, you can create a better user-experience that yields more conversions. Furthermore, because one-page websites are quicker to build and iterate, you save costs.

Pageless websites work best for businesses that sell professional services and would ordinarily have five or six pages on their website. But even businesses that perform numerous services like accountants, solicitors and mechanics can create effective websites by generating leads through curated content that focuses on the type of services you offer rather than trying to explain the benefits. People already know this.

Online businesses can benefit from one page websites across all devices and by embracing new concepts early, you are better prepared to take advantage of the market as new technologies are introduced that change consumer behaviour. Get in touch and ask us about how a one-page website can help your business.

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What Ranking Factors Should You Concentrate On To Improve Google SEO?

When Google let it slip the three most important ranking factors are content, links and RankBrain, they didn’t really tell us anything we don’t already know.

At least not on the surface. But there are underlying reasons why these metrics are what website owners should be concentrating on.

Google’s mission is to improve the quality of experience for end-users. The more people that use their search engine over their rivals means more advertising revenue goes into their already deep pockets.

But the search engine giant also has a genuine interest to improve search engine results and deliver content end-users want – especially on mobile devices.

Because mobile is becoming the customary way for users to access the internet, and will continue to do so as mobile technology improves, Google is intent on improving mobile search.

But for it to work properly, the search engine has to rely on publishers to create a user-friendly experience for mobile users. Hence the ranking metrics and subsequent awards of trust and authority scores.

What is RankBrain?

google-rankbrainLast year, Google launched RankBrain, an element of the Hummingbird algorithm that uses machine learning to improve search and rank content in relation to search queries.

But there is a long-term goal in mind: voice search. Because the keyboards on mobile phones are fiddly and take more effort, technology companies are trying to make mobile searches easier by using voice activated services.

But in order for voice assistants in search engines to function well, Google’s artificial intelligence system needs to understand natural speech patterns to determine what the end-user is searching for.

Google has already stated that end-users are still over-thinking search queries so that the machine understands what they want. But Google want end-users to use natural language so that RankBrain can learn what they want.

Although the search engine has not said as much, there is a strong possibility it will rank content that uses natural language over content that uses jargon, lingo or corporate language. Because this is how mobile users will conduct voice search.

Effective link-building

want40963-1UytrR1469101110We already know that content is king and inbound links are the strongest metric search engines use to determine the trust and authority of a webpage and ultimately a website.

The more inbound links you have pointing towards your content the higher it ranks. But you can also chip away at improving your trust and authority scores through internal link building and embedding outbound links into your content.

Search engines encourage publishers to point outbound links to high authority sites. The fall back to that is mainstream websites will take all the top ranks and leave little room for anybody else – even if they are publishing better quality content.

It is also a good idea to create silos on your website by pointing internal links to your main product or services pages. This is an indication to search engines that these are your main services and will be ranked higher alongside the keywords you have chosen for those pages.

Understanding how search engine metrics work is the first step to improving SEO rankings. So hopefully this article has helped.

What Is Brand Image And Why Do You Need One?

A brand image is how people perceive your products and company as an organisation. When you have a professionally designed logo, marketing materials, packaging and letterheads, customers recognise you are a legitimate business and helps you establish an element of trust.

But branding runs much deeper than trust and at the core of a brand image is design. The choice of colours, style of font and the elements you use in your logo, all communicate at a subconscious level.

The design of your brand image show be striking enough to instinctively draw your audience to your attention. But more importantly, it has to communicate what your business is about on an emotional level.

The human brain relates to visuals more than any other content. Therefore, we you are creating an image for your company, it is important to choose the colours, fonts and other styles that reflect the character of your business.

To do this, consider where your brand is positioned in the market. Who is your ideal target audience and what design will most appeal to them? You also need to research the design styles of your competitors and develop a unique image of your own that will set you apart from rivals.

Why you need a brand image?

Consumers are drawn to companies that have a strong brand image. They are also more inclined to stay loyal to a particular brand, they know trust. And dare we say, love.

A brand has to offer emotional value. It has to include a promise that you deliver, a personality your customers relate to, a look and a voice that is fitting for your brand personality.

Although the design of your brand image should make an immediate impact, it takes time for a brand image to take shape. Ideally you want customers to recognise your brand conceptually.

 

For example, when you think of Volvo, you automatically think safety. When you see the Apple logo, you instinctively think stylish design. Bang and Olufsen are associated with a rich sound.

To develop a brand image, you have to attach attributes to your company that lodges in a person’s mind. Your brand has to be memorable, produce products your customers can rely on and deliver a customer service that makes people feel special.

All the leading companies have been able to achieve greatness because they understand the power of having brand that stick in the mind. This is why leading corporations spend thousands if not millions of pounds a year on branding.

Your brand image should be included in everything you do. It has to be reinforced in your advertising campaigns, your company slogan, your customer promise and the service you deliver.

But essentially, brand image starts with design – and the visual images you choose to represent your company have to be memorable. People remember images and successful brands are instantly recognisable by their logo. And eventually, your brand image is associated with the value you offer to customers.

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The Psychology Of Marketing To Millennials

Millennials use the internet more than any other online generation and are subsequently changing the way brands express themselves and communicate with customers. Having grown up with mobile phones and computers in their life, the majority of millennials are much more tech savvy than most the previous generation X.

It is obvious that millennials are more inclined to shop online, stream video content and use social media networks. Yet understanding the consumer psychology of generation Y is more difficult than you imagine.

On the surface, there appears to be a conflict in terms. For example, millennials do not trust traditional advertising and prefer brands that show authenticity. Yet 82% interact with brands or retailers and 49% are happy to follow their favourite companies.

Millennial-social-media-tipsBrands with social responsibility receive a high percentage of the following, but millennials are also more inclined to discover new brands with 38% actively searching for experiences from undiscovered brands.

Generation Y are also more influenced by blogs and use brand content as a top media source before making a purchasing decision. They have little interest in TV and magazine ads and are not persuaded by marketing that feels deceptive.

What brands appeal to millennials?

Brands will find most millennials through mobile devices although consume more content across multiple devices than any other generation. The favourite hang outs are social media networks and 62% report they are more inclined to purchase from brands and become a loyal customer when there is engagement through social networks.

So what content is generation Y mostly drawn to? They prefer content that is personalised towards their own interests – both in-store and on digital platforms. This is why consumer data is vitally important to analyse and act upon. Misplaced advertising is treated with contempt as millennials do not waste their time with brands that send them offers for products they have no interest in.

The reason for that is because millennials are particularly cash conscious and can only afford to spend money on things they need; clothes, foods and services, although socialising is where a good percentage of their money goes. They have little left for luxuries.

Brands that offer economy rates and good value for money can capitalise on the psychology of young shoppers, but the most successful brands targeting this age bracket are companies that produce goods with social or environmental benefits.

One of the biggest surprises is that millennials are not persuaded by advice given by industry experts. Their purchasing decisions are mostly influenced by family, friends and strangers on peer review sites and celebrities, particularly when it comes to lifestyle choices and apparel.

The consumer buying habits of generation Y is changing the way marketers have to consider marketing strategies and the type of content you publish. Whilst millennials look inwards and prefer personalised services, they are also highly conscious of the world around them and care about social and environmental issues.

Zuckerberg Delivers Small Businesses Another Kick In The Facebook

Restricting organic reach to a measly six per cent is not good enough for Facebook. To be fair, many digital marketers tagged it ages ago, but organic reach on the world’s most popular social media network is now practically down to zero. 

Will it remain the world’s most popular network. Probably not with businesses. Unless you shell out for paid advertising, some are saying that marketing your products and service on FB is a waste of time. The best use businesses will get from this particular social network is an idea of consumer behaviour. And isn’t consumer analysis so much fun!

But there is a method to the madness that is Facebook. And you have to give credit to Zuckerberg for trying to establish the core values of the company.

As Vice President Adam Mosseri succinctly explains in his announcement of the new algorithm changes Facebook put “friends and family” first, but does want to be considered as “a platform for All Ideas.”

How Facebook plan to go about re-evaluating its original brand promise is by tweaking the News Feed algorithm and preventing accounts from becoming a mishmash of marketing videos, memes and ads. Unless you pay to advertise of course. 

Essentially Facebook want to make their service more personal to the user and deliver more posts from friends and family members. The change has been prompted by a lack of sharing, comments and likes given the amount of marketing content users are receiving.

More power to users?

facebook-likeFacebook held a referendum to ask what type of content their users prefer to see. The vote was for more “user-generated” content and less corporate news – which means family and friends get the nod over businesses. 

The key issue for FB users is essentially to remove the clutter they don’t want from their algorithm feed.

This feels a little awkward. When Facebook prevented organic reach based on user-behaviour, they restricted users from getting updates from friends they don’t engage with so often. That looks as though it may change, but we have’t noticed that in our news feeds yet. But it’s early days.

Although it appears certain content will be excluded from Facebook feeds, what happens to articles from publishers users want to read.

Mossier explained that users will be granted more power over content they receive from brands based on independent sharing – content they share directly from the publishers site rather than content that appears unceremoniously in their newsfeed. 

Will this also apply to sponsored ads? It doesn’t seem plausible that Facebook will shoot themselves in the foot, but they do already give users the option to see fewer posts based on certain topics which exclude brand content based on user preferences. 

It has to make you wonder just how well Facebook algorithm actually serves its users. On the one hand the social media wants to share “All Ideas” but does not want users to be inundated with content that is not relevant to them. Surely encouraging users to make their own choices rather than twerking algorithms is the sensible and beneficial approach.

Photoshop Tips for Lighting Effects

Effective lighting on digital images can have a massive impact on an audience. And Photoshop is a great tool that gives designers numerous options of creating stunning lighting effects that give images visual dynamics.

Lighting plays a vital role in artwork and helps the finished product look visually engaging and feel more alluring. Whether you are using lighting to enhance images, highlight features or just tie a piece together, here are a few ideas you might like to try out.

3-cosmic-lightsLight Streaks

Light streaks have a real digital, futuristic feel to them. They are also versatile and can add drama to images, or when used more subtly will draw attention to detail that you want the viewer’s eye to catch.

All you do to add light streaks is select the pen tool and draw a path for where you want the lines to go. You can find a full explanation for how to include light streaks in your image designs in this tutorial.

Eclipse effectsolar-eclipse

When you want to include a design that is out of the world, the classic eclipse effect is a great choice. Mesmerising, impressive and just downright cool, the eclipse effect is a great design skill to perfect.

The process of designing an eclipse effect may be a little more complicated than other lighting options you have in Photoshop, but for dedicated professional and curious learners, it is worth the effort. Check out this tutorial to learn how.

cool_space_lighting_effect_by_drkzin-d4b9ju8Space lighting effects

If you want to take the space theme one step further then check out these amazing ideas for inspiration. With little application, designers can create images from outer space and design any world you can imagine.

Photoshop enables designers to create planets, exploding nebulas, star systems and any other intergalactic image you like. If you really want to impress your audience, space lighting effects work a treat.

Luminescent lines

Luminescent linesAnybody that has used a computer is probably familiar with the luminescent lines on screensavers, but designers can put them to much better use by including them in ads or on web designs.

Glowing energy lines give glossy ads a powerful effect that make the image stand out and guides the eyes of the viewers to the features you want them to notice. Luminescent lines are an effective mechanism and not difficult to produce in Photoshop.

Abstract lightingAbstract lighting

An engaging background adds depth to your designs and abstract lighting effects can enhance artwork in various ways. By using Photoshop’s brush tool designers can create an illusion that inspires, excites and intrigues.

There are many ways to design abstract effects in Photoshop and you will find lots of tutorials and ideas to get you started around the internet.

The ideas above are just a few snippets of inspiration you can get for lighting up your next Photoshop design. Although many of the examples are intended to be eye-catching, it is worth noting that using lighting effects serve a function, so use lighting appropriately to enhance artwork, and not destroy it.

Google’s Mobile Speed Testing Tool

Google’s obsession with mobile-friendly websites saw yet another tool added to the website testing earlier this month, this time with the launch of a new mobile speed testing tool.

Following hot on the heels of Page Speed, Mobile Friendly Testing Tool and the so-called Mobilegeddon algorithm update, the new tool on thinkwithgoogle.com checks your website for mobile friendliness, mobile speed and desktop speed. Scores are marked out of 100 and given merits of good, fair and poor.

The purpose of all these Google-tools is to ensure websites are user-friendly across multiple devices. And given usability issues are used as metrics to rank pages in search engines, the results should not be taken lightly. Google does offer more detailed information if requested.

It is therefore important, that usability is considered your top priority when designing a website; from the user-interface, to navigation and how you lay out content.

As web performance improves, consumers demand websites that are easy to use and feature the information, product or entertainment value they are searching for. So to encourage visitors to explore your online business, engage with your content and become a loyal customer, your website must tick the following boxes:

bsnl-speed-test-meterFast load speeds

It is well documented that web users will only wait up to 10 seconds before they lose patience with a website that is not loading or does not allow them to scroll when the page opens. Slow load times are the quickest way to divert customers to your competitors.

Direction, direction, direction

Let’s be honest. The convenience the web offers is making us lazy. Consumers can’t be bothered to search for what they want on your website. They expect it to be presented to them.

But online businesses that have a purchasing path also need to direct customers where to go, thus your website has to include stepping stones that make it obvious where to go and what to do next.

Ease of use

From a usability point of view, web designers should think mobile first when fashioning a website. The actions users have to take need to be simple to use on a mobile phone.

That means including large buttons that can be tapped, pages that scroll vertically and images that pinch open so it can be viewed in full screen.

Simple purchasing process

Consumers want to complete tasks in the least amount of time and the least amount of clicks. If the purchasing process is too complicated, users will ditch the transaction before confirming payment.

Screen-Shot-2013-01-03-at-10.02.27-AMWherever possible, keep the amount of information you need to a minimum and offer to save bank details so customers don’t have to type them in every time they buy something.

User-experience is clearly taken very seriously by search engines and consumers –and that means web owners and web designers should be making usability the top priority before launching a website.

If your website is not performing on mobile phones, address the issue asap; especially if the majority of your visitors are mobile users.

How A Logo Sways Consumer Decisions

When you hear the name of a leading brand like Apple, Nike, Starbucks or Mercedes, the first thing that comes to the mind’s eye is probably the logo.

This is because logos have a psychological impact on our sub-conscious mind. But not only that, the shapes and use of lines within a logo can impact on the purchasing decision of consumers in various ways.

Purchasing decisions mostly rests on trust, and logos communicate emotional values that can determine whether or not people trust your brand.

It’s a complex scenario, but several studies conducted over the last few years have determined that the shape and colour of a company logo has an overbearing affect on how consumers perceive a company.

The psychology of logos

Psychologists and marketers have discovered that the sub-conscious mind responds better to logos that include geometric shapes. Circles, ovals, ellipses, squares, triangles and hexagons.

The patterns contained within logos evoke an emotional response which creates a perception of a company – rounded shapes are associated with comfort whereas flat edges are associated with things for practical use.

These perceptions are formed by the sub-conscious mind based on our experiences and what we see around us on a daily basis. Cushions and pillows are soft and typically rounded, whereas bricks and knives are angular with hard edges and serve a specific purpose.

What do shapes in logos mean?

If you study the logos of all the major corporations, banks and institutions, they all have appropriate logos and are based on sacred geometry. That’s because the designers of these logos understood the psychological impact these shapes have.

And now, so can you:

CWM portfolio thumbnail image-positive pathways beautyRounded edges:

Circles, ovals and ellipses tend have a personal emotional responses as they are associated with feminine qualities; warmth, affection and trust.

You may have noticed web designers are rounding off corners on straight-edge shapes such as squares and rectangles – most notably on call to action buttons and buy buttons. Have you ever wondered why that is?

Property Expert PartnershipStraight edges:

Squares and rectangles are best used by companies that offer a practical service or product. Hard edges imply stability, reliability, strength and efficiency.

Triangles on the other hand are typically used by government authorities, religious groups and law makers as the triangle has an esoteric meaning of power. The triangle symbolically represents the number three which is the number of manifestation – it makes things happen.

Tech companies tend to use hard edges with the softness of rounded corners. This portrays innovation and dynamics combined with a friendly product you can trust. After all, the majority of people love technology gadgets.

CWM portfolio thumbnal image-kent detoxHorizontal/vertical lines:

The former suggest tranquillity and calmness and are often associated with community connections. Vertical lines on the other hand have associations with strength, hierarchy and aggression.

A logo defines the perception of a brand. When designing a company logo, put some thought into how people will associate your brand based on the geometric shapes.

If you are not convinced that geometry makes a difference, study the corporate logos of every major company you like and take note of the sacred geometric shapes.

What Is Brand Image and Why Is It Important?

Branding is one of those sly little tactics companies use to seduce customers. Actually, it’s not sly. A brand image is a necessity. This is how you bond with customers and build lasting relationships.

In our line of work, we come across many small business owners that are sceptical about branding. To a degree, this view is understandable. Many small business owners do not feel as though they can justify the expense for branding.

However, our experience of developing brand images gives us an insight business owners don’t always have. Branding pays for itself. It is through your brand image that you draw a line under what your business is about so your customers know you are right for them.

What is brand image?

A brand image is the perception you want to give customers about your business. There is an element of courage required as you need to define your target audience and then communicate effectively with them.

But essentially, your customers need to feel an emotional bond with your business. They need to feel your business fits their ideals and life style choices and that you can provide benefits that will make their life a little bit better.

You also want your customers to know which of their friends or work colleagues will appreciate your products and services. Word of mouth advertising still has the most pulling power and ideally you want to overhear a conversation that goes something along the lines of: “Ooh, do you know who will like this place…”

Developing a brand image

ZC-portfolioThe first rule of developing a brand is to determine what your clients want. So write out a list. The first item on your list should be trust. The second should be experience.

Consumers are more inclined to purchase from brands they trust and if they enjoy the experience they are more likely to return. This is where the bonding process we touched on earlier comes into play.

A brand image goes beyond products and services. It should encompass your entire business including the colour scheme, pricing, messaging, sales and everything in between.

You therefore need to be clear about who your audience is, what you want to say to them and how you should say it. Developing a brand personality in your online voice and offline appearance has an important role to play in defining your brand image.

Communicating your message

Communication in the modern world comes in various forms. Online platforms such as websites, social media platforms, industry magazines, review sites, mobile apps, SMS, landing pages, face-to-face interactions etc all contribute to your brand image.

You need to be clear about how you want customers to perceive your brand image as every communication shapes their view of you. Therefore, your brand image should always be reinforced so that opinions about you do not change. Remember the trust factor?

You have more to gain by developing a brand image than you have to lose. If you haven’t already considered branding or you’re not sure where to start, get some help from branding experts.

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